Today, open-source technology is everywhere. Massive projects created and refined through collaboration with the public now impact us every day, even when we aren’t aware of it. Open-source software, operating systems, and web development tools are becoming crucial to many industries, and to the products and services those industries deliver. One amazing new example of this collaborative model recently caught my attention: WikiHouse.
WikiHouse is on open-source building system that allows people to design, 3-D print, and assemble sustainable, customizable homes. The idea was pioneered by a group of young entrepreneurs from London who believe that high-performance, low-cost, and low-energy homes that are manufactured locally can aid sustainability while empowering citizens and communities. Though the WikiHouse project is still in the development phase, demonstrations of the new construction system in several cities are already highlighting its advantages.
If you’re struggling to imagine how a house can be “open-source,” let me explain. WikiHouse takes a modular approach to design, which means each part of a construction project can be altered or substituted, allowing for completely customizable buildings. Once the design is complete, all parts are manufactured with precision by 3-D printers and automated tools called CNC machines. The parts are carefully tagged during manufacturing so they can be easily identified at the building site. Since the design process aims to minimize any chance of error during construction, a full-size WikiHouse can be assembled in only a few weeks!
If you think WikiHouses sound a lot like the once-popular Sears kit homes, you’re right, in a way. However, a WikiHouse combines the speed and convenience of the old kits with new technology that allows almost infinite customization, as well as easy maintenance and continuing improvements to the process. WikiHouses are also smart homes, incorporating a range of sensors and devices that let the owner control different systems in the new dwelling.
As of today, the only option available in the WikiHouse catalog is a tiny studio measuring 11.6 square meters. The cost of building the studio is estimated at 14,500 British pounds, and the studio can be assembled by three or four amateurs in about three days. Of course, this is still a beta version, and many improvements are expected. In fact, ongoing improvement could be considered the essence of the Wikihouse process! Though the project is still in its beginning stages, I’m very curious to see if this new idea can live up to its creators’ innovative vision.